President Obama’s Big Speech

One word: WOW! Even some very staunch pro-lifers who disagreed with President Obama’s speaking at Notre Dame had to admit that he made a great speech today. Even engaging the abortion issue directly in it and Catholicism’s influence on his own life. You can see that portion of the speech below as describing it or even quoting it does not capture its power.

Some thoughts: I agree totally with President Obama’s words here about working for common ground with those who disagree with us. I would also say we have but no other choice but to do this as there is a diversity of opinion out there on many issues, not merely abortion. A colleague and I were speaking after mass today and I thought he made a good point about reducing these arguments to mere opinion. That somewhere there is a need for us to identify where we are being led by what we believe is truth. Some will say that all truth is subjective –that things differ in essence based on their context. I would say that we can cite several examples where that is most certain–but also we can cite at least a few where it is far from the truth as well. Therein lies the difficulty in working on issues of life with people who hold differing ideas about truth’s objectivity.

So where does that leave us? I think President Obama’s words about doubt and about certitude ring somewhat true here. While I know that I truly believe in many of my convictions, I also know that I have been humbled by thoughts and ideas where I was clearly mistaken. In the moments where I believe my more rooted convictions have held and led by the teachings of my church where I have found the fullness of truth residing, I’ve also found another principle at work. That principle is humbleness.

Truth doesn’t need ME. Truth will be revealed despite whether I defend it or not. Truth comes to all people, albeit more slowly to some, and often slower to me and God’s mysterious revelations remind us that we are not God. That we do not know everything. As Merton famously said: “The fact that I believe I am doing your will does not mean I actually am doing it.”

However, people of good will can take some comfort in the mystery, in the knowing of our own imperfect knowledge, in the knowing that we are not God by following more of Merton’s famous words.

“I believe that the desire to please you (God), does in fact, please you.”

Today I pray that we all, despite the courage we all have in following our convictions in the desire to please our God, may be able to more graciously listen to one another in humbleness, express ourselves in charity and forgive one another with love.

As the graduates of Notre Dame head into the big bad world, may they know of my prayers for their lives as young adults and beyond. And as the President heads home after inspiring all of us with his words may he find peace and continue to have the desire to please God–and may that lead him to see all human life as sacred. Amen.

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4 Comments

  1. I dont agree with you.Im pro life,disagree with you and obama’s speech.”Catholicism’s influence on his own life?”Obama believes the catholic church is a ngo,a Kiwanis club.”capture power?”Americans elected an anti catholic teleprompter machine…”Common ground?”Enforce FOCA,overturn conscience rights of doctors,aprove late term abortions and you will be an open mind-open heart guy.”Its difficulty working on issues of life with people who hold different ideas about truth’s objectivity…”So,Obama wants to catholics to give up,to endorse his views on abortions issues…”We need to be humble…”But he doesn’t,ok?”Inspiring all of us…”You’re kidding….

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  2. Adriano–My comments in CAPS here.I dont agree with you.Im pro life,disagree with you and obama’s speech.I’M PRO-LIFE TOO. BUT LET’S DISCUSS THE SPEECH.”Catholicism’s influence on his own life?”Obama believes the catholic church is a ngo,a Kiwanis club.UM, NO. DID YOU EVEN LISTEN TO WHAT HE SAID ABOUT CARDINAL BERNADIN HAVING THE COURAGE TO SPEAK HIS CONVICTIONS BUT TO DO SO WITH CHARITY AND RESPECT FOR OTHERS. OBAMA HARDLY BELIEVES WE’RE A SOCIAL CLUB. THAT’S JUST SILLY TO THINK THAT HE BELIEVES THAT.”capture power?”Americans elected an anti catholic teleprompter machine…IF HE WERE ANTI-CATHOLIC HE WOULDN’T HAVE ACCEPTED THE INVITATION. AND HE’S HARDLY A TELEPROMPTER. HE’S SMARTER THAN MOST PEOPLE YOU KNOW.”Common ground?”Enforce FOCA,overturn conscience rights of doctors,aprove late term abortions and you will be an open mind-open heart guy.FOCA HAS NO CHANCE OF PASSING. OBAMA CAN BE INFLUENCED IF WE HAVE THE COURAGE OF OUR CONVICTIONS AND DO ALL WE CAN SO PEOPLE DON’T CHOOSE ABORTION–BUT WE DON’T DO THAT–WE”RE TOO SELF INVOLVED. WE NEED TO TAKE THE BLAME FOR THAT. THE LAW MAKES IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO CHOOSE ABORTION WITH CERTAINTY AND PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SUPPORT OF THIS LAW DOESN’T HELP, BUT WHY HAVE WE ALLOWED THAT TO UNFOCUS US ON STOPPING WOMEN WHO ARE MAKING THAT CHOICE?”Its difficulty working on issues of life with people who hold different ideas about truth’s objectivity…”So,Obama wants to catholics to give up,to endorse his views on abortions issues…UM, NO. DID YOU LISTEN TO THE SAME SPEECH?? HE SAID THAT WE NEED TO KEEP THE COURAGE OF OUR CONVICTIONS AND FOLLOW OUR FAITH. IF WE DO THAT MEANS THE FOLLOWING:WE DO WHAT WE CAN WHERE WE CAN TO STOP WOMEN FROM CHOOSING ABORTION. SOME WILL ANYWAY, DESPITE OUR EFFORTS, BUT THE SECOND WE LOSE FOCUS IS THE SECOND THAT ANOTHER LIFE IS OVER.”We need to be humble…”But he doesn’t,ok?UM HE’S VERY HUMBLE. HUMBLE ENOUGH TO NOT BE CONDESCENDING LIKE MANY PEOPLE WERE TO HIM BY SCREAMING IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS SPEECH.”Inspiring all of us…”You’re kidding….I GUESS YOU MISSED ALL THOSE PEOPLE STANDING AND CHEERING.

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  3. The gospel imperative of engagement is hard to live if what is given can’t be received. I thought that Tom Reese’s words were particularly important on how this worked for Obama… In particular these (h/t to dotCommonweal.)“President Obama’s reception at Notre Dame showed once again that a new generation of Americans, including Catholics, is looking for a different kind of leader, not one who speaks down to his audience, demands strict loyalty and demonizes opponents, but one who addresses complexity with honesty, acknowledges disagreements and tries to bring people together for the common good.”I am sorry, minds can’t be changed if there is no discussion.

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  4. “I want to thank you for the honorary degree”A shame ,they did it…”honest and thoughtful dialogue…”While Sebelius and Planned parenthood do what he really wants…”align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age”clear,his intentions,align values…”we must decide how to save god’s creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it”Who will save the children,god’s creation too,from obama’s agenda?He changes internet words easily,but he cant change his actions .will pro lifers believe in it?He doesnt know that church endorses stem cells research.He talks like all stem cells are embryonic stem cells.The sucessful studies are with adult stem cells.take a look at the studies of university of São Paulo,Brazil ,about juvenile diabetes.Does he believe that catholic students are stupid?”We can still agree that this is a heat wrenching decision for any woman to make…”And a question of life or death for the baby…”the view’s of two groups are irreconciliable”True…”Notre Dame is a lighthouse”when follow the church…

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